Why do we read (and write) novels?

131011hayonwyepiccs croppedI found this 2013 article on the University of Cambridge website. Four writers—Sarah Burton, Trevor Byrne, Malachi McIntosh and Helen Taylor—talk about how reading and writing shaped their childhood, the power of fiction, what makes good literature.

Here are some extracts from their their thoughts on the power of fiction:

Sarah Burton: “The power of fiction is released, as I see it, by two processes. First, writers have to recruit or seduce or beguile us into their world – only then do we trust them to take us on this journey. Then there is the journey, and that’s where the power is most obvious. That’s where the reader and writer have made a compact, where a point of view is shared, where common responses are exploited.”

Trevor Byrne: “Fiction brings you to places, emotionally and imaginatively, which you never otherwise would have visited. …I think fiction is a skilled dreaming, and the story we construct in and from the dream is presented as a subtle thesis: given this set of people and this set of circumstances, this will happen.”

Malachi McIntosh: “Camus says that all artwork is a demand for unity, a ‘reconciliation of the unique with the universal’, an imposition of order on our chaotic, closed and very limited experiences of the world. His core idea is that narrative art organises life in such a way that we can reflect on it from a distance, experience it anew and deny the transient nature of the everyday.”

Helen Taylor: “The poet Billy Collins puts it well I think. On reading fiction he says: ‘I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves, straining in circles of light to find more light until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs that we follow across a page of fresh snow…'”.

For the full text, go to http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/why-do-we-read-and-write-novels.

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